Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Woods

I don’t think I spend enough time in the woods. I visit often enough to know that things have changed considerably in the last 25 years. Deer and Turkey, uncommon when I first moved here, have increased in numbers to the point that they are a major factor in the future development of this woodland ecosystem. I’ve just not properly documented the changes that have occurred.

The prairies have always taken priority. The prairies are where most of the rare and unusual vegetation is to be found and that’s where I’ve spent most of the free time I’ve had available for management activities. The woods has been more of an attractive backdrop to the prairies and a shady place to sit and relax during the summer. It’s just been in the last few years that I’ve found time to look more closely to the workings of this woodland.

Woodland management activities have so far centered around the removal of invasive plant species. Luckily, most of the woods is free of invasives. The invasives are concentrated on the lower slopes and in the valleys. I wonder if the ridgetop soils provide an environment too hostile for colonization by invasives. These soils hold very little water and are dusty dry right down to the bedrock during late summer and early fall. I’m really curious about the effects of this dryness on soil organisms and the cycle of changes that occur over a typical year.

I always have time to admire the odd shaped trees. Of course, that describes most of the trees at Blue Jay Barrens. This tree has a history of being a den tree. About five years ago it sheltered a family of Gray Foxes and before that it was Raccoons. The cavity has enlarged considerably since then and is probably too spacious for these species to find comfortable. Maybe I’ll look in one day and find a bear.

The past couple of years have been excessively windy and several trees have suffered broken tops and branches. This branch received a twist that created a split lengthwise down its center. This isn’t the type of wound that heals itself.

The worst part is that the branch is still hanging up in the trees. Eventually it will die and fall. It’s things like this that keep me looking up when I walk through the woods. I’ve stopped on occasion to examine an odd looking tree in the woods, only to find that it was actually a broken branch that had fallen and speared the ground with such force that it remained solid and upright. I certainly don’t want to be in the way when a big branch decides it’s time to head for the forest floor.


  1. Hi Steve...yes I am here...just a little distracted!!
    Your post yesterday had some very interesting shadows in the photos>
    What kind of trees grow on the ridge top??
    You know that tree with the hole could at some point contain a homeless never know!

    My neighbors probably think I a little crazy because I stand and stare and study some of the trees around my yard ..especially when there is a branch caught up I want to figure how I could get the darn thing down out of there..and the tree I hate that I wish would just fall in every big wind storm we have but I know never will..
    oh well ..keep combing your forest!!

  2. Oh my gosh...could you imagine seeing a bear's facing looking back at you! I heard Black Bear roam Shawnee, and you're not that far! It must have been so interesting to watch the Grey Fox family. I would have loved that...